on December 17, 2003
This book is presented as an explanation of what it is that might cause something to go from insignificance to ubiquity. It in fact does nothing of the sort and is actually just an amusing collection of stories.
It is well written as a social history, and has a light, journalistic style good for dipping into, but the reader is left absolutely none the wiser as to why any of it happened. I would therefore class it as pretty much a waste of anyone's time.
One thing that particularly annoyed me about this book is that chaos theory - a branch of mathematics almost 40 years old, for the analysis and prediction of exactly the sort of thing this book is wondering about - is mentioned only once: as a footnote.
That's like writing a book about why planets stay in orbit around the sun, and mentioning astrophysics as an aside.
on March 11, 2002
A whole book to tell us that the author has identified situations when an idea or a fashion spreads with epidemic strength, and that he is still thinking about how and why this happens.
Guess what, all of us had already noticed in our daily lives how fashion trends and other things happen literally overnight - and all of us have tried to imagine how this was possible, and the answers, or potential answers, we came up with, are as good as those in the book.
The Tipping Point can be summarised in about 2-3 lines and is not worth reading.
on April 12, 2004
Despite all the clamor and fandom, Gladwell's thesis is essentially nonsense. What he claims, in essence, is that a few well-placed and influential people can be the critial factor in social change. He attempts to prove this by working backwards, finding the "early adopters" and pointing to them as the critical factor in a new trend, movement or whatever.
Careful and thoughtful readers might ask themselves: If these early adopters are the important factor in new trends, shouldn't they be the critical factor in more than one new trend? And interestingly enough, they are not. And that is the flaw in the argument.
Looking at any movement you're going to find that *someone* had to be first, even if if the growth of the movement was totally random. The real critical factor in the growth of new trends is not the people who are influential, but rather the opposite- people who are very easily influenced. They're the ones who follwo every new trend, or buy every new consumer good. And this is something that social scientists- and Madison Avenue- have known for decades.
on April 8, 2000
As another reviewer pointed out, the central tenet of this book is no great insight for anyone who has much knowledge of mathematics or science generally.
His points are on the whole so obvious that I fail to see why a book needed to be written to explain them. Essentially, if you want to start a "social epidemic" you should:
a) make sure you attract people who are either persuasive, know lots of different people, or are "mavens" - enthusiasts in a particular field who have a lot of knowledge and therefore influence among non-enthusiasts. Imagine that - persuasive people are persuasive! And people who know lots of people help make connections between them! Well I never.
b) make your message "sticky" ie memorable - precisely how is not specified
c) make sure the "context" is right, in some unspecified way.
All this is ridiculously obvious.
As for the style of writing, take this nauseatingly condescending quote: writing about Paul Revere's ride , Gladwell informs us "news of the British march did not come by fax, or by means of a group e-mail. It wasn't broadcast on the nightly news, surrounded by commercials."
Just fancy that! Lots more examples of similar waffle.
on February 13, 2002
Mr. Gladwell's ideas are really not all that original: many are based on old sociology academic work. He makes arguments without providing ample evidence to back them up(it seems they are really designed for sound bites) and the book has an artifical flavour.
on July 4, 2004
Tipping Point is a painful book to read, painful especially to contemplate the patchwork of fill that turns what at best is a pop magazine article into a poor excuse for a book. Gladwell stabs at any theme he can possibly use to support his by no means new theory of tipping points. He hits one, perhaps, when he covers Rudy Giuliani's results in the City of New York, buts the rest are paler attempts. His comparison of Paul Revere with Dawes is over-romantic and downright silly. There's something profoundly patronizing about his tone of writing and his lack of any kind of wit.
on February 6, 2002
This publisher is clearly benefiting from having a splash-page blurb -- I'm sure it's getting lots of clicks -- but take a careful look at the sample pages before you buy. We got suckered in -- what author doesn't want to know more about selling his or her own book? -- but there's really not much here. Buzz is one thing, but having a quality product to create a buzz about is even better. This book is a perfect example of the former without the latter. Without some sort of underlying substance, buzz is just a lot of noise. Save your money.
on August 29, 2000
I suspect that Malcolm Gladwell must have enlisted 98 of his good friends to write glowing reviews of this simple-minded treatise (perhaps 150 good reviews would have been too obvious). It appears to me that the only "epidemic" that is involved here is the one that Mr. Gladwell is attempting to create around some of the ideas that he seemingly adopted from the book "The Bell Curve". He seems to desire to inject new life into the notion that much of human potential, whether positive or negative, is genetically predisposed. This idea is hardly new, and traceable, at least, back as far as the discredited Eugenics movement in this country. These notions fit well with the claims (that Mr. Gladwell seems to support) that Rudolph Giuliani's attempts at fascistic neighborhood control were mainly responsible for the dip in crime in NY, and makes no mention of the negative effects of the atmosphere created by the NYPD after the adoption of these policies. There is very little to support Mr. Gladwell's theories other than his own musings and his erroneous depiction of the evolutionary process. It is an anecdotal and personal theory masquerading as a scientifically based explanation and does the unsuspecting reader a disservice. I will never again buy a book from AMazon that I don't have prior knowledge of. I would give the book zero stars if were possible.
on March 2, 2000
Unfortunately, "The Tipping Point" is a book I must say which I regret having bought. On advice from a friend and all of the good reviews it has had lately I went ahead and bought it. After reading it though, the book itself is, to me, another one of the many examples of mass-marketed popular psychology books, which, when printed, attracts a feeding-frenzy of so-called truth lovers and people who want to find out "how the world really is". (Note how many times this phrase is repeated on the online reviews of the book.) Even Gladwell himself purports to be speaking the "truth" but, unfortunately, examining a few cases which had something in common, or in which even the evidence was overwhelming does not account for"truth" and is in no way part of any psychological-scientific method. Even real psychologists will tell you that statistics cannot capture everything, which Gladwell does not.
Either way however, what was most disturbing about this book turns on two things. First, Gladwell has coined many terms, e.g. "Mavens," "Connectors," etc, but fails, in significant places, to properly qualify them. Where he does qualify them, the arguments are much less strong than the social psychological weight they are meant to bear. Secondly, and more importantly, for those who are looking for "Cure-alls" to the so-called diseases of the world, and such, Gladwell has advice. But for those of us who are a bit more modest in our scope of possibilities (not to mention better read and more enlightened), the book's final, disgusting section on social engineering can only come as a surprise and a shock. Let's put it this way: In the 1600s, Thomas Hobbes' political and social-theoretical world was a much, much kinder and gentler place than Gladwell's in the 21st Century. I'll leave it at that.
on February 20, 2000
The main problem with this book, for me at least, is that it just isn't substantial enough to be a BOOK. While the original article, which first appeared in the New Yorker quite a while back, was absorbing, delightful, and even thought-provoking, but I suppose my initial positive reaction was mostly due to the fact that it was a MAGAZINE ARTICLE, and I read it--as most people read magazine articles--while eating a meal alone or commuting to work; that is to say, without sitting at my desk, pencil and notepad at hand, paying each word and every sentence my undivided attention. I don't of course wish to disparage journalism or books written by journalists, but "The Tipping Point" suffers, I think, from everything that can go wrong when one adopts, expands, or simply reprints a newspaper or magazine article into a full-length book. The arguments Gladwell presents, when they're surrounded not by cute and funny New Yorkers cartoons but between the cardboards of a hardcover book, seem lightweight at best, and commonsensical, perhaps even farfetched, at worst. A fellow reviewer below has already noted the strange absence of any discussion of memes. Allow me to add that in a book that purports to reveal the little hidden mechanics that bring about tidal-wave changes in our social behavior and our society, the absence of detailed examination of memetics is simply unforgivable. (It'd be like writing a book that claims to talk about 20th-century physics but skips any mention of quantum mechanics.) In addition, some of the "scientific" methods employed by Gladwell seems dubious when they're not simply quixotic. For instance, the little experiment whereby Gladwell gave a list of people's last names to "400" people to read, asking them to give themselves a point every time they personally "know" someone who shares any of the last names on that list, seems just so pointless as not to merit inclusion even in a shoddily written article, much less a real book. And what's Gladwell's conclusion from this little experiment? That college students don't score too well, because they don't yet have the opportunity to know too many people, while real professionals, especially those whose business it is to have a lot of business connections, score the best. (You don't say!) And then Gladwell went on, apparently oblivious of the obviousness of it all, to dub the latter, the well connected, "the Connectors" (his capitalization; I should also mention that the author, like many fellow journalists, has the annoying habit of coining catchphrases, the usefulness of most of which seems rather questionable). If you think this is ridiculous, please allow me to assure you that the book is full of examples like this. All I can say is that if you're intrigued by the idea of the "tipping point," perhaps you should just go to your local library and photocopy those few pages of the New Yorker, rather than spend your money on the actual book. It's just not worth it.